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Opinion: Firing line

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In April 1985, Ronnie Lee Gardner shot and killed a lawyer during a court appearance at the Metropolitan Hall of Justice in Salt Lake City. Though handcuffed, a female acquaintance slipped him a small-caliber weapon, and he fatally shot a lawyer in court that day for a completely different case. Gardner was in the courtroom to discuss evidence in an earlier murder case against him.

Ronnie Lee Gardner will soon face execution in Utah. What makes this case another headline is that Gardner has chosen a firing squad as his execution of choice. And, barring even more court actions, Gardner will likely get his wish.

The case brings to public discussion both the matter of capital punishment and, specifically, the method of that capital punishment. Only Utah has used a firing squad in current times, first with the sensational case of Gary Gilmore more than three decades ago, and again with John Albert Taylor in 1996.

Capital punishment is an interesting topic that has long been discussed and debated. Opponents pose several arguments against the subject, and supporters are equally vocal in their support.

This case will change none of that.

In recent years we've had countless court cases -- including Missouri -- arguing that lethal injection -- the most frequently used method -- is cruel and unusual punishment. Though the argument has delayed some executions, capital punishment still remains in most states.

There's also been some interesting arguments. Lawyers for obese inmates have argued that their size makes lethal injection problematic. That too has delayed cases.

The Gardner case brings to the surface two age-old arguments. Do you favor capital punishment and, if so, is a firing squad an acceptable practice for society to use to end the life of someone convicted of the ultimate crime in this country?

Though many would argue otherwise, I have always felt that capital punishment is a deterrent to crime. I base that perhaps on common sense. There are those who clearly disagree.

And if a firing squad is one of those methods available, I would assume the convicted has the one final right of selecting his method of death. Given the current political climate in this country, some future court may well rule otherwise.

From time to time, cases surface that focus national attention on this issue once again.

I am always reminded in those instances of the victims. It seems that we all too often lose sight of those who were killed or harmed during the crime that produced the death penalty.

As best I can determine, public sentiment still supports capital punishment in this country. And, also as best I can determine, those opposed will never change their minds.

If it's a firing squad, lethal injection or the electric chair, the debate will continue.

Maybe that's the way it should be.

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I hate to do this, but it's driving me crazy:

"There's also been some interesting arguments."

No. There *have* also been some interesting arguments.

Beyond that error, I'm not really sure what you're trying to say here. This could have been summed up with "The death penalty still exists. Some people agree with it. Some people dont. The end."


-- Posted by MusicMaker on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 4:01 PM

25 recent studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,


"Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Reply to Radelet and Lacock"


"Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"


"The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"


-- Posted by dudleysharp on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 10:45 PM

Death Penalty Polls: Support Remains Very High - 80%"


Lethal Injection: Controversies Resolved


-- Posted by dudleysharp on Wed, Apr 28, 2010, at 10:47 PM

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